Saturday, May 9, 2015

Constant Queen of Diamond Syrahs Highlight BBQ Rib Dinner

Constant Queen of Diamond Syrahs Highlight BBQ Rib Dinner

For a BBQ rib dinner wine buddy Bill brought a Constant Diamond Mountain Syrah 2010 which I matched with a 2006 for a comparison tasting. I wrote about our visit to the Constant Estate high atop Diamond Mountain in northwest Napa Valley in a blogpast last fall when we toasted producer Freddie Constant who had recently passed away unexpectedly. Our estate visit and tasting was one of the highlights of our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2011. For further comparison tasting we opened a favorite Syrah we've been tasting regularly as a benchmark - 90+ Cellars Lot 101 Columbia Valley Syrah.

Prior to dinner we opened a Brewer Clifton Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2007.

Brewer Clifton produce an extensive collection of nine different single vineyard designated Chardonnays each crafted to reflect the distinct terroir of each vineyard site.

Crisp, restrained with lively acidity, kiwi, lemon and lime citrus tones with a layer of flint, hints of melon and peach.

RM 88 points.

Tonight, comparing two vintages of Constant against a benchmark domestic Syrah we know well and have been drinking regularly, was great fun and quite revealing.

Constant Diamond Mountain Queen of Diamonds Northern Sonoma Syrah 2010

We discovered and acquired this label during our Estate visit mentioned above. Bill subsequently acquired this later vintage from the producer/winery through the club allocation. Wow, delicious. This has to be at the apex of its drinking window here at five years of age. I can't imagine this improving any with further aging. Of course, I am partial to and prefer the sweeter tasting profile such as this.

This was reminiscent of and almost as good as another memorable Napa/Sonoma region domestic Syrah, Kongsgaard Napa Valley Hudson Vineyard Syrah 2007, with a similar tasting profile, although it was perhaps not quite as complex or polished.

Its also up there with another favorite Napa Valley Syrah with a similar tasting profile - Arns Melanson Vineyard Syrah 2008 - although Arns is from the opposite side/corner of Napa Valley up near Atlas Peak, Pritchard Hill. Well, the stage is set for a future ultimate Syrah domestic tasting challenge! 

The 2010 Constant was dark inky purple colored, full bodied, full forward flavors of bright expressive black raspberry and blue berry fruits, a layer of sweet dark chocolate, clove and tones of what reviewer Steve Tanzer calls 'bacon fat' and Robert Parker calls 'wild meaty notes'. All I know if its really good and tasting great right now.

RM 93 points.

Constant Diamond Mountain Queen of Diamonds Northern Sonoma Syrah 2006 

Perhaps due to an additional several years of age, and likely also characteristics of the vintage, while tasty and having a similar tasting profile, this was a shadow of the 2010 vintage, less flavorful, less complex or concentrated and less polished. Yet, this was very tasty pleasant drinking. That's how extraordinary the '10 was!

We last tasted this label a year ago when I wrote the review below and tonight's tasting experience was consistent and similar: "The 2006 Constant exhibited dark inky purple color - medium-full bodied, nicely balanced and polished bright full flavors of blue and black fruits with a layer of ripe plum and sweet clove, hints of tea and cedar on the lingering finish. While this is tasty now, it lacks backbone and structure for longevity."

RM 91 points.

Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 101 Syrah 2009

Like several earlier tastings against several Shiraz' or Syrahs, this has served as a tasting benchmark. Against several, this came out as the standard bearer. Hence, tonight was a great comparison test and it met its match (es).  

I've raved about this wine several times in this blog, but tonight it came across as simpler, less complex, and less polished than the 2010 Constant. It was less flavorful than the '10 but matched up better against the 2006. 

However, we shouldn't forget that this negociant label is less than half the price of the Constant, so we shouldn't be too disappointed. It still may be one of our favorite drinking wines in our cellar right now, certainly at this price point!

Dark inky garnet colored, medium to full bodied, this full throttle Syrah reveals layers of blackberry and black currants fruits with tones of sweet vanilla, caramel and spice with hints of black pepper on a lingering smooth silky tannin finish.

RM 90 points.

Grgich Current Release Tasting

Grgich Hills Napa Valley Estate Current Release Flight Tasting

From a well known legendary Napa producer, here are a couple wines that while consistent and reliant labels, don't necessarily distinguish themselves as high QPR, being rather middle of the road achievers at Napa Estate prices.  If you find them on sale, they are mainstays for the cellar for category benchmark every day or weekend drinking, except for occasional exceptional vintages when they can be standouts.

Grgich Estate Dry Fume Blanc 2012

At the retail pricepoint, there are some labels I believe prefer that offer more complexity and variety for the premium retail pricepoint. But if you get it on sale, then this is a standard bearer to keep in the cellar. Straw colored, light bodied, clean crisp citrus, hints of pear and flowers with dry clean acid finish.

RM 88 points.

Grgich Napa Valley Estate Chardonnay 2011

Butter colored, medium bodied, rather simple straightforward Chardonnay, not loaded with butter or oak but tending to predominant tones of citrus over the subtle pear and green apple with a mineral finish.

RM 87 points.

Grgich Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, rather subdued closed and complex but tight dark berry fruits tones of sweet caramel, black tea and cedar with with hints of floral on a moderate tannin finish. Needs to time to settle and to open and reveal its native character. 

RM 90 points.

Grgich Napa Valley Zinfandel 2010

Bright dark Ruby colored, medium-full bodied, zesty brambly flavorful black and dark red berry fruits with tones of vanilla and hints of pepper and smoky creosote on the finish ... begs for some some bar-b-que ribs. North Napa Calistoga Estate Zinfandel with a 3% trace of Petite Sirah.

RM 88 points.

Liparita Napa Valley Merlot 2001

Liparita Napa Valley Merlot 2001

Following the blockbuster 2001 vintage Diamond Creek Napa Cabernet we tasted the other night, I was inspired to pull a 2001 Napa Bordeaux varietal from the cellar to go with chargrilled beef burgers. This Liparita Merlot bears the same name, but I don't believe is any relation to the current Liparita Napa brand that exists today.

We are nearing the end of the cache of Liparita Napa Cabs and Merlots we acquired during this earlier era, when we visited with and conducted barrel tastings with the then winemaker Gove Celio at the Oakville custom crush facility. (I recall pictures of this tasting event but cant find them - challenges of days before digital photography, and journaling.)  Records show that at one point we had a half dozen (seven) vintages of L:iparita Napa and Howell Mountain Cabs and Merlots. Research shows Gove moved on to Neal Family Vineyards thereafter but I must admit, while having acquired and drinken Neal Family Cabernet, I did not make the connection.

Looking into this further I see he is director of winemaking there and Neal Family Vineyards is on Liparita Road in Angwin high up on Howell Mountain. Somehow we missed this during our numerous trips to Howell Mountain. We'll definitely explore this further for a future Napa trip.

My how time flies, as my last tasting note for this wine was back in 2011... My review from then - "Dark garnet color, medium full bodied - opened with a floral violet aroma, ripe red and black raspberry and blackberry fruits predominate turning to a firm tobacco box with hint of tar on a moderate smooth tannin finish. 89 points."

While still holding on, this is nearing the end of its drinking window as the floral aroma and the dark fruits are starting to give way to the non-fruit tones expressed above, and a layer of  what I might call 'wet musty wood' is starting to set in. Drink up.

RM 86 points.